Monday, March 24, 2003

Families buoyed by hope, prayer



By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MASON - Sunday sermons encouraging churchgoers to bear hope, strength and faith for America's troops in Iraq resonated for those with loved ones stationed overseas.

Optimistic messages, they said, were exactly what they needed to hear.

When they aren't in church, their lives revolve around TV news and a scant number of phone calls and e-mails from the husbands, wives, sons and daughters risking their lives in battle.

At Hope Church in Mason, Mickie Ernette, 52, took a deep breath. Sunday services kicked off with an instrumental rendition of "God Bless America" before easing into peaceful prayers that urged her to hold onto her faith.

"That's all we have to hold onto," said the Blue Ash mother whose son, Kevin, recently left an Air Force base in Tucson, Ariz., for Iraq.

"We send our sons and our daughters (off to war). We grow them up and they make choices," she said. "One of the choices that Kevin made was to be in the service. I just have to hold onto my faith. God is with him and there is a purpose and a reason for everything that's going on."

Hope Church was packed Sunday with about 1,600 congregation members who gathered to pray for the Ernettes, their son, and other church members who have close ties to those fighting overseas.

Elders laid their hands on U.S. Marine Maj. Kurt Lang, while praying for everyone stationed in the Iraqi region. Lang, 38, of West Chester, is stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and drove 11 hours Thursday so that he could be with his wife, Myong Sun, and two boys - Thor, 8, and Gunnar, 6. "I felt very honored," he said of the church service. "I feel for the guys over there."

A veteran of the Persian Gulf War, Lang remembers missing his new wife and wanting to hear routine, stateside news during the 1991 conflict. He said there's a simple answer for what today's troops need.

"Just support," he said. "Whether you support or don't support your government, you have to support your troops."

Hope Church members have been sending encouraging notes to those with family members preparing for combat.

Steve Jancsics, 42, of Loveland, has a brother, Grant, stationed in Kuwait. He and his children have sent the Marine captain a care package with lip balm, sunscreen, cookies and encouraging letters.

Jancsics' faith has grounded him during this chaotic week.

"I'm not worried about Grant," he said. "There's a sense of confidence and calm. Without my faith, I'd be more anxious and worried."

On the other hand, Jan Moss, 62, of Mason, is like many Americans. She stays glued to the TV despite not knowing anyone fighting in the war. Still, she'd prefer to be in church, where hope and faith are always alive.

"It really just makes you feel that God is in control and everything is going to be OK," she said. With TV, "I can pick up what's going on. (But) this is what I really need."

Email svela@enquirer.com




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